The 28th edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival began on Thursday with a Hollywood thriller, Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk.
In 3D, and spectacular from frame to frame, The Walk is based on Philippe Petit’s nail-biting biographical adventure, To Reach the Clouds, and Zemeckis’ work takes us precisely there, to the skies, when we see the French high-wire artist cross from one Twin Tower to another in New York’s World Trade Centre on August 7, 1974. The film is dedicated to all those who died or were injured on that fateful September 11, 2001.
Zemeckis is acknowledged as a pioneer of visual effects and lauded for films such as Back to the Future (a haunting science fiction comedy), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (a live-action-animated combo) and his later Forrest Gump (which fetched him an Oscar for direction).
And in The Walk, Zemeckis takes us back to a time when the Twin Towers stood tall and majestic against the Manhattan sky, their amazing height seducing Petit to tame and conquer them -- well in a way. The Walk has some absolutely thrilling moments as it takes us to Petit’s early life in Paris, where he earns his living by juggling and wire-walking, much to the chagrin of his father who abhors the idea of his son being a street performer.
The Walk review: This is what 3D was made for
A chance look at a photograph of the Twin Towers in a dentist’s room in Paris gets Petit literally on a daring high, and he makes it his secret mission to walk between these two on a tight rope, and the film gives us a day-by-day account of how he accomplishes this highly dangerous and illegal act -- secretly though and with a few accomplices, including his girlfriend and a photographer pal.
Zemeckis was at hand on the opening night to introduce The Walk, and so too were members of the international jury, including its president, American television and movie director Bryan Singer, noted for two works that screened in the earlier editions of the festival -- The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil.
There were a few others from Hollywood, like actor Helen Mirren -- whose Woman in Gold plays at the festival -- and the film’s helmer, Simon Curtis. Hilary Swank was also seen on the Red Carpet, representing You Are Not You. Both these movies will hit theatres in Japan next month -- a country notoriously in love with Hollywood that gives a hard time for Japanese cinema. While one sees long queues for Hollywood blockbusters, fresh-from-the-cans local works go abegging for patronage.
The Nippon contingent was really large on the opening night , not surprising given the nearly 100 Japanese films scheduled to screen in all festival sections, the largest number ever. Among those drawing the most local media coverage were Koichi Sato and Tsubasa Honda, the stars of the closing movie, The Terminal, together with the Japanese director, Tetsuo Shinohara.
Watch The Walk trailer here:
The Terminal is slated to be a gripping drama of a lawyer and an accused woman who choose a remote town as their terminal station.
Also in attendance was the Philippine director, Brillante Mendoza, whose cinema is well-known in India. He was also once on the jury in the Mumbai Film Festival.
India has three movies in the festival, Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani, Ishaan Nair’s debut work, If Only or Kaash and Umesh Aggarwal’s Jai Ho on AR Rahman. But none from these films were to be seen on the opening night.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Tokyo International Film Festival.)